As a runner you may already do circuits, hill sprints, and possibly core work to improve your time and endurance. Adding strength training to the mix, even using body weight only, can improve neuromuscular control and balance and help you avoid muscle imbalances that can lead to injuries.
Strong quadriceps and hips counteract overly conditioned hamstrings and calves, and a strong upper body can give you more flexibility and help you fight off fatigue.
When the holiday and travel season arrives, you can almost always fit in a run to counteract the extra calories you’ll be enjoying. But how do you effectively strength train when you’re away from home?
The good news is that you can do strength training exercises in any small space and with no equipment (except for a towel or floor mat). Do these exercises before your runs, at separate ends of the day, or on different days, three times a week to stay on top of your game. You can modify this workout to include just a few of the exercises if time is tight, or try doing them in a circuit (one set each, rest, repeat).
This warm up will increase your mobility while getting the blood flowing to your joints and muscles.
Leg Swing (front/back and lateral)
Stand next to an object and hold on to it with your left hand. Keeping your back straight, stand on the balls of your foot. Bend your right leg slightly and swing the leg forward to about waist level, then swing back through the middle and continue behind you, like a pendulum. Repeat for 10 reps and then switch legs. To do lateral swings, face the object you’re holding on to, stand on the balls of your feet and swing your left leg in front to the right, then out to the left side.
Repeat for 10 reps and then switch legs.
Stand with feel shoulder-width apart and arms overhead. Bend your right elbow and raise your left knee towards each other. Lower your leg and raise your arm again. Repeat on the opposite sides, returning your arms to the overhead position before each rep.
Repeat for 10 reps per side.
Start in a push-up position with your hands on the ground instead of your forearms. Walk your hands towards your feet as far as you can until you’re in a pike position, keeping your feet flat on the ground. Now walk your hands back to the start position.
Repeat for 10 reps.
Do the following exercises for the designated number of repetitions for three sets each, resting 30-60 seconds between each set. Three times a week is a great goal for strength training exercises.
For a mega calorie burn, add any of the following between sets: High steps, lateral shuffle and reach, squat jumps, mountain climbers, burpees, or jumping jacks. Or, decrease your rest time between sets. To save time, work in the last three exercises between sets. If you have dumbbells, feel free to use them to amp up the intensity even more!
1. Side Lunge with Reach. Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart. Step slowly to the right and shift your weight into your right heel, bending the right knee and pushing the hips back. Continue to lunge until your shinbone is vertical to the floor and your right knee is aligned with the second toe of your right foot. Your left leg should be as straight as possible with both heels on the floor. Reach for your right foot with your left hand. Then push off firmly with your right foot, returning to the start position. Repeat for 10 reps each side x 3 sets.
2. Prisoner Squat to Toe Raise. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hands behind head, elbows back. Distributing your weight evenly on your feet, squat down as low as comfortable, keeping your head and back in a neutral position. Return to start position and raise up on the balls of your feet. Hold for two seconds and lower back to your heels. Repeat for 15-20 reps x 3 sets.
3. Single-leg Glute Bridge. Lie on your back in a bent-knee position with your feet flat on the floor. Place your feet hip-width apart and toes facing away from you. Contract your abs to flatten your low back to the floor. Raise your hips off the floor, avoiding arching your back. Now lift your left leg off the floor (keeping it straight) until it is parallel with your bent leg. Hold for two seconds. Keeping your left leg raised, lower your hips but do not let them touch the floor. That’s one rep. Repeat for 12 reps each side x 3 sets.
4. Push Up-to-Reach. Lie on the floor face down, hands directly under your shoulders. Push up so that the weight is on your hands and toes. While raised, rotate your body to the right side and extend your straight right arm up toward the ceiling. Return your hand to the floor and lower your body into the push up. Raise up and repeat with the other arm for 12 reps each side x 3 sets. Variation: Elevate your feet on a bench and skip the reach.
5. Prone Cobra. Lie face down, hands by your hips, shoelaces to the floor. Slowly lift chest and arms off the floor with thumbs up and neck neutral. Squeeze shoulder blades together. Do not hyperextend your spine; this is a small, slow movement. Hold for two seconds and repeat for 15 reps x 3 sets.
6. Wall Stick-ups. Position your back, head, and arms against a wall and bend your arms to a 90-degree angle. Keeping your elbows and shoulder blades retracted against the wall, lift your arms above your head and back down to 90 degrees. This may seem easy but it’s an excellent exercise for your upper back and shoulders. Repeat for 15 reps.
7. Diamond Push Up. This exercise targets your triceps. Get in push up position, except place your hands directly under your chest (about nipple line), with your thumbs close together. Your hands form a diamond shape if positioned properly. Do not let your elbows flare out; keep your arms close to your body. Lower your body to the floor and push up. To make this exercise easier, place your knees on the floor or put your hands on a chair instead of the floor so that your body is at an incline. Repeat for 12 reps x 3 sets.
8. Crunch with Knee Raise. Lie on your back with your hands crossed in front on your chest or behind your head. Draw in your naval, keep your heels on the ground and slowly lift your shoulders off the ground, letting your abs lift your body, not your neck. At the top of the crunch, raise one knee and touch it to the opposite elbow. Use your glutes to pull your knee up so that more muscles are engaged. Repeat for the other side for 12 reps each side x 3 sets.
9. Thread-the-Needle Side Plank. Lie on your side with legs straight and your weight on your bent elbow. Your elbow and shoulder should be in a straight line. To make it easier, cross one foot over the other instead of stacking your feet. Raise your arm to the ceiling and then scoop it down through your bent elbow, and return to the starting position. Repeat for 12 reps each side x 3 sets.
10. V-Up. Lie on your back, arms overhead. Contract your core. Keeping your legs straight and head neutral, raise your legs and shoulders off the ground while bringing your straight arms overhead to meet your ankles. Lower your legs and shoulders without letting them touch the ground, then lift again. Repeat for 12 reps x 3 sets.
Static stretch your entire body, including hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, back, chest, and shoulders. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds.
You’re done! Now fuel up with carbs and protein and you’re good to go.
I definitely love doing these kinds of workouts when we travel and the weather outside gets too nasty for a run!!
Suzanne is a NASM-certified Personal Trainer and author of Workout Nirvana, a blog dedicated to helping everyone feel at home in the weight room. With over 15 years of weight-lifting experience, Suzanne strives to educate, inspire, and motivate women and men alike about clean eating, strength training, and gaining confidence in and out of the weight room.